Story highlights

NEW: Russia says it fired 26 missiles from Caspian Sea into Syria

NEW: U.S. defense chief calls Russian airstrikes a "fundamental mistake"

Wednesday's strikes mark a new level of cooperation between Russia, Syrian regime

Washington CNN  — 

Russia launched a naval bombardment Wednesday of ISIS targets in Syria, a senior Russian official said, ramping up a newly muscular presence in the Middle East.

Four Russian ships fired 26 missiles into Syria, hitting 11 targets, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin during a televised meeting.

Shoigu said the strikes were launched from the Caspian Sea using precise long-range missiles that flew 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) to their targets.

Russia says it launched missiles at Syrian targets from the Caspian Sea.

Wednesday also appeared to mark new and closer military cooperation between Russia and the embattled Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia and Syria launched coordinated attacks on Islamist factions in towns in Hama and Idlib provinces in western Syria, with the Syrian shelling apparently conducted in concert with Russian airstrikes, according to an opposition group.

Why are Russian airstrikes in Syria a big deal?

The report appeared to offer fresh evidence that Russia’s primary goal is propping up al-Assad rather than fighting terrorism.

Even as its ships and warplanes conducted fresh strikes, Russia said it was willing to cooperate with the United States in carrying out attacks in Syria.

However, speaking to reporters in Rome, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called the Russian campaign of airstrikes in Syria a “fundamental mistake.” He said the United States was not ready to cooperate with Russia on operations in Syria.